A Renaissance Christmas

A Renaissance Christmas
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Coro, COR16167. 67’11

A Renaissance Christmas

The publicity blurb that came with this CD refers to it as “a perfect alternative to traditional carols”, and it certainly is. Perhaps trying to seek forgiveness for their 2015 release, The Complete Traditional Christmas Carols Collection (recorded in 1991), The Sixteen here concentrate on music from the Renaissance era. They bring their particular brand of highly professional choral singing to a well-balanced sequence of pieces from composers born between 1505 and 1580, a period when the Renaissance reached its zenith as religion in Europe reached one of its periodic nadirs. Continue reading

Song of the Nativity

Song of the Nativity
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
Coro COR 16146. 73’58

The Sixteen’s Christmas offering combines traditional with contemporary-lite pieces that, according to the Coro website “by their unashamed simplicity, captures the joy and sincerity of this most wonderful of seasons. This album provides a perfect peaceful and uplifting antidote to the hectic pre-Christmas rush.”. That sums it up pretty well. The composers represented range from  Henry Walford Davies (b.1869) to still-living composers ranging from Morten Lauridsen (b.1943) to the youngest composer, Will Todd (b.1970). With what I assume is aimed at a Classic FM audience that The Sixteen seem to have captivated, there is nothing to frighten the musical horses but, equally little, if anything, to encourage younger or more adventurous composers.

The early pieces work best, but the contemporary compositions left me yearning for something more, err, contemporary.

Helper and Protector

Helper and Protector
Italian Maestri in Poland
The Sixteen, Eamonn Dougan
Coro COR16141. 67’32

Eamonn Dougan, associate conductor of The Sixteen, continues his exploration of music from Poland with this CD of music by Italian musicians in the late 16th century during the reign of Sigismund III Vasa. Sigismund III ruled the Polish/Lithuanian state at a time of religious upheaval. Raised a Catholic his Polish mother in the Protestant Sweden of his father (the King of Sweden), he soon became involved in the Counter-Reformation, seeking out musicians from Rome to help in his quest.

The most notably of these was Luca Marenzio, represented here principally by his superb Missa super Iniquos odio habui. This is the first complete recording of this work, much of which Continue reading

Monteverdi: Messa a Quattro voci

Monteverdi: Messa a Quattro voci – Vol 1.
The Sixteen
Coro COR16142. 71’29

Monteverdi: Dixit Dominus (Primo), Confitebor tibi Domine (Secondo), Lauda Jerusalem; Cavalli: Magnificat; Monteverdi: Laetatus sum, Nisi Dominus, Laudate pueri, Laetaniae della Beata Vergine, Beatus vir.

Monteverdi: Messa a quattro voci et salmi of 1650 Volume IIn the last two years of his life, Monteverdi collected a substantial amount of his music for publication (the Madrigali guerrieri et amorisi, 1638, and Salve morale et spirituale, 1641), reflecting his musical output over the previous decades. After his death, one of his publishers had the good sense, or the commercial sense, to put together some unpublished manuscripts to form the 1650 Messa a 4 v. et salmi a 1–8 v. e parte da cappella & con le litanie della B.V. This is the first of two CDs from The Sixteen of music from this posthumous collection: the Mass setting of the title will be on the second volume. This CD includes a selection of liturgical pieces, but not in any specific liturgical context, with several Vespers Psalms, a Litany to the Virgin Mary and a Magnificat by Cavalli who probably assisted in the preparation of the publication. Continue reading

The Sixteen: The Deer’s Cry

The Sixteen: The Deer’s Cry
Coro COR16140. 66’52

Tallis/Byrd: Miserere nostri
Tallis: When Jesus went into Simon the Pharisee’s house.
Byrd: Diliges Dominum, Christe qui Lux Miserere mihi, Domini, Tribue Domine, Emendemus in melius, O Lux beata Trinitas, Ad Dominum cum tribularer, Laetentur coeli;
Pärt: The Deer’s Cry, Nunc dimittis The Woman With The Alabaster Box;

The Deer’s Cry: The Sixteen sing Pärt, Byrd & TallisIf you are mathematically minded, this might be the CD for you. Some of the most complex examples of English contrapuntal wizardry from Tallis and Byrd are balanced by more recent, but equally complex and evocative music, from the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt. As the programme note explains, “Here, Tallis and Byrd meet Pärt on common ground”, although at times, Pärt’s music can sound earlier than that of Tallis and Byrd with its sense of mediaeval structure and texture. This CD will whet your appetite for The Sixteen’s 2016 Choral Pilgrimage, when you can experience this music performed live in some of the most beautiful venues the UK can offer.

The CD opens with Byrd’s extraordinary eight-voice Diliges Dominum, a palindrome (or ‘crab canon’) that sounds exactly the same (words excepted) whether performed forwards or backwards. Almost certainly an act of pure Continue reading